Favorite emerges for Clinton campaign

Favorite emerges for Clinton campaign
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Top Democratic operative Robby Mook has emerged as the heavy favorite to run Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMeet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Mattis defends border deployment during visit to troops | Bolton aide exits WH after clash with first lady | House blocks Yemen war resolution | Report warns of erosion in US military superiority Exit polls show more women breaking with Republicans MORE’s likely presidential campaign. 

The 35-year-old veteran of her 2008 campaign cut his political chops as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and later as campaign manager of top Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe’s successful bid for Virginia governor. 

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Since that 2013 win, Mook has stayed in close touch with Clinton. He has advised the former secretary of State beginning with the 2014 midterms. His presence has grown in recent days, helping Clinton map out what a potential campaign might look like and spending his time holding a string of meetings with some who could play a role in the campaign. 

Though Clinton is still some time away from an announcement, expect Mook to be the one leading her campaign charge this time around. 

 “He’s one of the best operatives there is, period,” said one staunch Clinton ally. “He’s the guy in the back room who pours over data, crunches numbers and figures out the best strategy.”

The Vermont native helped lead Clinton to 2008 primary victories in the states he was charged with managing: Nevada, Indiana and Ohio. 

Ultimately, he earned respect from both Hillary and Bill Clinton over time as one of the best campaign organizers around who "understands the nexus between data and organizing," said one longtime ally to the former first lady.  

Her loyalists say their faith in Mook was cemented when he helped lead McAuliffe, the Clintons’ longtime friend, to victory in a tight Virginia gubernatorial race in 2013.  Those close to the campaign say Mook did a remarkable job instilling discipline in the campaign and keeping the chatty former Democratic National Committee chairman and fundraiser from overstepping his bounds.

“I think everyone inside and outside of the campaign was just blown away by [Mook’s] performance,” said another source in Clinton world who worked on her 2008 campaign. “It wasn’t an easy campaign, but he kept his head down, with little ego, and knew how to get to the finish line.”

Since then, Mook has maintained close ties with McAuliffe, working for the governor’s political action committee and the Virginia Progress PAC, helping to reelect Old Dominion State Democrats like Sen. Mark Warner in November. 

Those familiar with Mook’s work says he works out of a small office at Perkins Coie and has maintained a relatively low profile professionally. 

Former DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said he was particularly wowed by Mook after his work on a special election in New York’s 26th District in 2011.  Israel recalled in an interview with The Hill that he felt “There was no hope and no prayer of winning” that race. 

But in a thoughtful email, Mook convinced Israel to go all in.

“I have a hunch we can put it in play,” he told Israel, with the caveat that “It's going to cost a lot of money” to win. The congressman was convinced, and the Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, ended up pulling a surprise defeat in the conservative district by hammering her GOP opponent on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget and Medicare cuts. 

That was the moment Israel said he realized that Mook is “not only the real deal, he's the best deal.” In the 2012 cycle, Democrats picked up eight seats after their 2010 drubbing, losing 63 seats.

"This is a guy who could size up any competitive district in the country almost instantly and develop a comprehensive plan to win that district,” Israel said. "I would put my political life in his hands. I would put the political life of anybody in his hands."

But even some staunch Clinton allies who admire Mook’s work aren’t so convinced that he is the right fit for the job. One former top aide on the 2008 campaign said the role as a campaign manager for a Clinton bid won’t just be strategic but will also have to manage the outsized personalities in the Democratic front-runner’s orbit.

“You have Bill Clinton calling you every night; you have advisers like Lanny Davis calling to offer his two cents all the time; you have a lot of people with big egos,” the former aide said. Davis, a columnist for The Hill, served as a special counsel to former President Bill Clinton.

The former aide said if John Podesta leaves the White House this year, as expected, and serves as Clinton’s chairman, he can take some of the weight off Mook, freeing him up to focus on logistics. 

“That was part of Patti’s problem last time around,” the former aide said referring to Patti Solis Doyle, who served as the former secretary of State’s first campaign manager before she was forced to step down in the middle of the 2008 primary. “She was juggling too much.”

Another staunch Clinton ally worried that, by bringing Mook on board, some of the same drama and infighting from her first bid would resurface.  

“Can’t we bring in someone new?” the ally wondered aloud. “There is plenty of talent out there. Why make ‘16 like ‘08? We’re headed for the same problems.” 

Those worries were amplified last month when ABC News revealed that there was a listserv entitled the “Mook Mafia” which detailed petty comments from the strategist and other former Clinton campaign aides.

One exchange quotes Mook, who refers to himself as “the deacon,” rallying those on the list to “smite Republicans mafia-style.”

But those close to Clinton — who puts a premium on loyalty in her inner circle — say she feels comfortable around Mook, and there is little chance of tapping someone else for the role. 

Former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Guy Cecil, who served as Clinton’s political director in 2008, was also in the running but said last month that he wouldn’t be working for her in an official capacity. 

EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock had been another contender. 

“She needs people she knows and trusts and he has a good sense of her style,” said one longtime Clinton ally.

Mook, the aide said, is good at building organizations from the bottom up. While he’s not a “message guy” he “likes having strong messaging people around him.”

“If he can be the manager that can run the staff, run the team, work with the team to get the votes, then he’s the right guy,” the former aide said. “If they allow him to do that and keep him out of the bullshit and the infighting, then he’s the guy, and I think it’ll be okay.”